Oct 28th, 2022, 09:00 AM

The Pre-AUP Stories of "Older" Students

By Isaac Bates
Former USA National Skeleton team member Allen Blackwell loading on his sled for run in Whistler, Canada. (Image Credit: Allen Blackwell)
How three people came to AUP through unconventional paths

AUP hosts a diverse set of students from all walks of life, and from ReSisters to Black and Abroad, the university prides itself on its many clubs that highlight the wide range of diversity within the student body. However, there remains a significant, yet hidden and underdiscussed minority of students within the university.

This minority – a small portion of students roughly 30 years of age and older – brings a unique and interesting set of experiences and stories acquired mostly before their arrival to AUP. These students spoke of their lives prior to university, and detailed exactly how they feel as older students pursuing their degrees among a much younger cohort.

“It’s been a little bit odd. I’m being exposed to a younger generation that I’m not very familiar with" Phillippe Geoffrion, 33, explained regarding his time at AUP surrounded by 'traditional-aged' students. 

Geoffrion outlined his feelings in more detail, defining the difficulties of studying at a later age. "The jargon, the current music, the trends - it’s all new to me. That definitely poses a few challenges.”

Phillippe Geoffrion (Image Credit: Isaac Bates)

“For example, it can be difficult and confusing integrating into the community when there is a big difference in things like the subject matter of conversations or life experience between someone my age and a younger student" Geoffrion explained. 

"Still though, I’ve met a lot of intelligent people that are much younger than I am who I enjoy conversing with about literature and art, which is really nice. They’ve showed me that I can learn just as much from them as they can from me.”

Sophie Adams, 29, shared a similar sentiment. “It’s kind of funny. When I tell people how old I am, many people are surprised.”

Sophie Adams, 29 (Image Credit: Isaac Bates)

“Taking French is amusing because when I tell the class my age, the professor usually thinks that I don’t know my numbers. It can be tiring, as I’ve also had people assume I am a graduate student based off my age, and then act disappointed or confused after I explain that I am an undergraduate student. I feel like have to explain that I already have a BA and an MA to maintain some credibility or gain approval from them.”

Allen Blackwell, 34, expressed a different opinion. “Being an older student is great, especially as an undergrad. I’ve had classes with younger students, and they’re super fun and energetic, but being older has given me an advantage over them as its easier to keep my priorities straight and focus on school.”


Allen Blackwell, 34 (Image Credit: Isaac Bates)

Blackwell elaborated, highlighting additional benefits to studying at a later age. “Also, I came back to school not only knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but having life experience to guide me. You can see a clear difference in attitudes and priorities with the older students at AUP versus the younger who came straight from high school.”

Though all three of the students had entered college around the same age, they revealed extremely different reasons and backgrounds which pushed them to pursue an education at AUP.

“In short, I went to The University of Utah on an athletic scholarship in 2007. I later dropped out to pursue my dream of becoming an Olympian athlete, which I trained for years for” Blackwell explained. He was a skeleton slider, competing on the international level.

Image Credit: Ann Blackwell

“I missed the Olympics by one spot, but I was still able to coach a Jamaican athlete to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang," said Blackwell. "After that, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I fell into depression as a lot of athletes do. A few years after a downward spiral and failing out of Utah with a 1.2 GPA, I decided I wanted to finish school at AUP. Being an athlete, I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and I didn’t want to live the basic lifestyle of my hometown – Jackson, Mississippi.”

Image Credit: Allen Blackwell

Adams illustrated a more career-focused reason for returning to school, saying it was the best decision for her to progress toward her dream of working in Fine Arts. Like Blackwell, she mentioned a need for a new beginning. 

“For me, coming to AUP has been a normal evolution. I went to college at a traditional age after high school and earned 2 degrees. After 2016, I worked in advertising for about 5 years, but the entire time I was always trying to see if I could get a job at museums because I love history and art.”

“When I was in high school, I always thought I’d channel that creativity into business and advertising. I wanted to take what I learned from business into the art industry, but all the jobs I applied for in the industry required an arts degree. I kept getting turned down, so I had to keep working in advertising. At a certain point, I figured I might as well get my art history degree from AUP since I could live abroad, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”


Image Credit: Sophie Adams

Like both Blackwell and Adams, Geoffrion had also attended university prior to AUP, but attributed his main reason for returning to school was his love for Paris.

“I was going to community college from 2007 to 2009 and I got very involved in music. During those years I decided to pursue music and leave school indefinitely. I was playing in various bands around the San Francisco Bay area, playing funk, rock, blues, and soul music. Eventually I transitioned into performing as a solo flamenco guitarist.”

Image Credit: Phillippe Geoffrion

“In Sacramento I had a steady gig at a restaurant and started to play at wineries, art shows and art galleries. Eventually, through some strange set of events, I ended up in Paris. A girlfriend of mine while I was in the United States had moved here and I came to visit her, but we split up before I arrived. When I came here after we broke up, I started to realize I loved Paris. I have to admit, though university is now a priority for me, I came to AUP more to enjoy Paris than to continue my schooling.”

As for whether they feel there is a community among the older students at AUP, Geoffrion, Adams, and Blackwell all said the same thing: No.

“Honestly, I don’t think there is any sense of community for us.  There might be a little bit among the graduate students, but that’s it” Blackwell said. Adams agreed, saying that “there isn’t really anything for us. Besides, it’d be weird if there was an ‘Old Students Get-Together’ kind of club.”  

“There aren’t many of us here," said Geoffrion, agreeing with Blackwell and Adams." We’re amicable when we need each other but I don’t think we like to separate ourselves from the mass of students here as it makes us feel we’re too different.”